Only Real American Patriots Are Willing To Lose Elections
I am the proud, self appointed leader of the “Loser Caucus” in Michigan Democratic politics. Our ranks include the many fierce candidates who have run for seats in extremely difficult districts, championed our values the entire time and then ultimately conceded defeat when the voters of our districts spoke. I performed this patriotic duty in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
We understood many of the legitimate obstacles facing our ability to flip our seats- primarily heavy gerrymandering, but also nasty disinformation and smear campaigns waged against us by the Michigan Republican Party, paid for with unlimited funds by the likes of the DeVos family , opaque Republican Leadership PACS and dark money conservative groups. (Which were shockingly, not on the up and up it seems.) We knew those were our challenges going in, and we gave those battles everything we had. We organized, mobilized and strategized on how to get our messaging through to voters on the issues we were going to champion for them: clean water, well funded public schools, better access to healthcare and improved safety in our communities. This was our “radical agenda.”
Most of us were new to politics, having answered the call for more regular people to run for office. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we were determined to learn so we could win and lead. We went to trainings, we learned the rules and we followed the law. If we messed up, which everyone does, we paid the price (either literally with fines, or figuratively with whatever goal we failed to achieve.) We learned from our mistakes and moved on.
We did not blame our shortcomings on anyone else. We did not whine or moan about being unfairly treated, or try to weasel out of our legal and financial responsibilities as candidates. We took it seriously, it was not a game to us.
Personally, I was faced with a million moral and ethical dilemmas in my multiple runs for office. Politics is a “group sport” and for candidates who are novices, you have no instincts other than what your gut tells you. Having a strong set of morals and values, courtesy of my Unitarian Universalist upbringing and professional nursing ethics, I made every decision based on what I could live with forever. If I wanted to bring change to how politics was done, I’d have to actually live the example I wanted to see. That is how I try to live every day of my life, not just during a campaign, and I sure as heck was not going to start compromising my values.
When I saw problems with the Republican party, I absolutely spoke out knowing full well the hateful backlash I would receive. When I saw problems with my own party, I wrote and signed my name to a letter demanding change in collaboration with 15 other patriotic losers across the state. (Many items of which the MDP has since adopted to their credit. Thank you MDP!)
In 2018, when a fellow Democratic candidate was charged with (and later convicted) of embezzlement, I immediately and publicly called for her to step off the ticket. To her credit she did, knowing she had forfeited her good standing within the Michigan Democratic Party and that she would not find any fellow Democrats who would excuse her behavior in order to win that hotly contested seat.
She was running for the State House in a district that was completely within the boundaries of the district I was in running for State Senate that cycle, which was also the seat for my own State House representative. I had potentially the most to lose by calling for her to stop campaigning- I lost the chance to be represented by a Democrat in the Michigan House of Representatives, and due to the huge demoralization and straight up confusion about this unfortunately “September Surprise” who knows if I lost out on the 4,417 votes I would have needed to flip that seat.
I’ll never know. We’ll never know. But on that terrible day in September 2018, I had no hesitation as to what my ultimate decision would be. It would have been completely amoral & unethical to gloss over, sugar coat, excuse, deflect or flat out ignore what my fellow candidate had done, just to increase my chances of winning my extremely hard fought election.
While I cheered for the many ground breaking victories of 2018 and crucial 2020 wins, I also felt the intense sting of my own losses. There will always be a part of me that will never recover from the blows dealt to me in those election cycles. These wounds are reopened every time the men who beat me in those races do, say, vote and call for things that are bad for our district. I become infuriated when they ignore the best interests of our district to further their own political careers. And I am enraged when they cast doubts on the Michigan election system that handed them both victories-especially the 2020 election. Clearly, they aren’t wrestling with any moral or ethical dilemmas in both benefiting from our election system while simultaneously attacking that system as corrupt, fraudulent or untrustworthy.
I do no contest the legitimacy of my election losses. I lost. I did not get more votes. I did not win. And I have accepted that every time. As the candidate, the buck stops with me and I did not move enough voters to win any of my races.
I accept that.
I want to live in a democracy and that means someone has to lose, even if it’s me.
My future in politics was never more important than democracy itself. My ego did not need to be stroked with a big lie that I secretly won but for election rigging. I ran knowing full well each time that I could lose. But I also ran knowing that running a good campaign, spreading your values, speaking your truths and connecting with the good people of your community was worth it regardless of the outcomes. Maybe I could be an inspiration to more women, moms, nurses, UUs, parents of LGBTQ+ kids, gun safety advocates, etc to run for office. Maybe I could hold a mirror up to the hypocrisies that have gotten us to where we are as a democracy. Maybe I could even just help people who could benefit from my skills, knowledge, experience or connections.
I ran for office because I wanted to help people. I still do. I will continue to dedicate my life to improving everyone’s health, equity and quality of life as much as I can with the time I have on this planet. That is my calling as a nurse, mom and citizen of the world. I have no future political ambition. I know I can make my own impact with the platform I’ve built and my dedication to living my values every day.
But I can hold my head up high and be proud to retell my stories to my kids, grandkids and great grandkids if I’m ever so fortunate. To me, running in hard “throw away” districts was one of the most patriotic things I’ve ever done. If nothing else, maybe the record number of new voters I brought out helped get vitally important candidates like Gretchen Whitmer, Jocelyn Benson and Dana Nessel elected in what we now know was a crucial 2018 midterm election. And you can be damn sure I’ll do whatever it takes to re-elect these heroic leaders in our state.
Michigan has too much at stake not to. America has too much at stake not to. Our democracy is holding on by a thread and we need a groundswell of real American patriots to draw a line in the sand: Join those of us who want to keep our Republic or join those who want to end the American experiment as we know it and slip into a fascistic autocracy.
Every voter must decide: Are you an American patriot or are you a Trump loyalist who refuses to accept election defeats?
I ran for office willing to lose. And from my experience, only American patriots are willing to lose elections well.